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La Salle Academy (RI) Sweeps 4×1 Mile Relays

LA SALLE ACADEMY COMPLETES RARE SWEEP
OF 4xMILE RELAY AT NEW BALANCE NATIONALS

By Chris Lotsbom, @ChrisLotsbom

(c) 2015 Race Results Weekly, all rights reserved
(Used with permission)

NEW
YORK (14-Mar) — Coming into day-two of New Balance Nationals Indoor
2015 at The Armory, La Salle Academy of Rhode Island knew they were on
the precipice of history. With strong teams in both the Boys’ and
Girls’ 4xMile relays, the school of roughly 1,500 students wanted to
walk away from the meet with a pair of national crowns. That they did,
sweeping the 4xMile in grand fashion.

First up was the Girls’
relay, with Karina Tavares, Audrey O’Neil, Sheridan Wilbur, and Eliza
Rego taking the track. Pre-meet, the quartet knew they would face hard
competition from Blacksburg (VA), Corning (NY), Express TC (Elmira,
NY), and Spirit of Pre (Saline, MI).

While all four of the
aforementioned teams provided challenges early on, Wilbur and Rego’s
strength on the third and fourth legs helped solidify La Salle’s
positioning up front. Racing alone in the pole position, Rego would
notch a sub-five minute mile anchor leg to give La Salle the victory
going away in 20:26.13. Corning (NY) would take second, some 14 seconds
back in 20:40.23.

“Our coach calculated a time, but we weren’t
sure what we could do,” said Rego, noting that the team had never
competed in the 4xMile before. The team decided to run this relay as
opposed to the distance medley relay because they thought it’d be more
of a challenge to get the win.

“All week we were talking about
how hard it would be,” said Wilbur, a senior. “The bigger the battle,
the more satisfaction we’d get out of it!”

Yet the school was
only getting started. Coming in as the clear favorites, La Salle’s
Boys’ team was favored to win their relay and potentially challenge the
17:07.17 national record set last year by Christian Brothers Academy
(Lincroft, NJ).

Opening with Daniel Paiva and Matthew
Bouthilette, La Salle was at the head of the field. Yet they weren’t
alone: Davis of Utah, a team that finished sixth at Nike Cross
Nationals last year, was right on their heels.

Davis and La
Salle would consistently trade the lead back and forth, especially on
the third leg. La Salle’s David Principe and Davis’s Logan MacKay went
stride for stride before handing off to Jack Salisbury and Josh Ward,
respectfully.

Right on national record pace, neither one of the
pair would give an inch, refusing to succumb to the harsh pace. After
all, a national title, All-American honors, and pride was on the line.

Admittedly,
Salisbury didn’t expect Davis’s Ward to be challenging him during his
leg. While Davis is regarded as one of the best teams in the nation,
they weren’t predicted to go toe-to-toe with La Salle.

“I was
thinking this kid is taking it pretty fast. If I can just stay with him
I’d be good…I wasn’t really anticipating them to be there on the
final leg or two. But they stuck in there — they are a tough team,”
said Salisbury.

Knowing that Salisbury had run 4:08.76 for the
open mile earlier this year, Ward tried to break him each and every lap
down the backstretch, surging hard and keeping the pace honest. Ward is
the brother of Jared Ward, the former BYU standout who will race the
USA Marathon Championships at the Los Angeles Marathon tomorrow.

“The
battle was intense, but it’s fun when you work with your teammates like
that,” said Ward. “I tried not to think about it too much during the
race [referencing Salisbury’s well-known speed]. Once I started I was
just like race whoever it is, no matter if he is a 4:05 guy or a 4:50
guy.”

At the sound of the bell, Ward extended Davis’s lead to
what appeared to be two meters — the largest it had been since the
second leg. But Salisbury refused to give in. After being denied the
pass around the final bend, Salisbury opened his stride and overtook
Ward in the final 50 meters, giving La Salle Academy the clean sweep of
the 4xMile titles. Although their winning time of 17:11.07 was four
seconds shy of the national record, La Salle couldn’t have been happier.

“You can’t beat it — we just won a national championship!” said Bouthilette, the second leg.

Over
the course of this season, La Salle Academy has put their school on the
map with successful performances throughout New England. Between the
boys and girls teams, there is a friendly rivalry of who can achieve
more each meet.

“I think we do [have that]. The girls in the
past have had a lot more success than we have. But the past few years
we’ve really stepped it up and really been competing with them lately,”
said Paiva, the only senior on the boy’s winning team.

Following
their win, the girls team was track-side cheering for their classmates
as loud as possible, edging them on towards the historic sweep. No
school had claimed both 4xMile relay titles in the same year since
2000, when Rockford (MI) pulled off the feet. Interestingly, Olympian
Dathan Ritzenhein –who will be running the United Airlines NYC Half
here tomorrow– was a member of that winning Rockford squad. His wife
Kalin (then Kalin Toedebusch) was on the girls’ team.

But today, the spotlight belonged to La Salle Academy.

“It’s
huge. I think it shows a lot about our coaches, the program we have,
and to be able to pull this off, it shows how strong La Salle’s
distance program is,” said Wilbur, the third leg of the girls relay.

“It
shows that we have a great coaching staff and that our kids have a
great work ethic. We go in every day trying to get the most benefit out
of everything we do, whether it is a workout or easy run,” echoed
Bouthilette.

—-

Davis (UT) wasn’t done for the day
after their runner-up showing in the 4xMile relay. Roughly five and a
half hours later, the same quartet of Stokton Smith, Colter Blanchard,
Josh Ward, and Logan MacKay would return to The Armory’s oval and power
home with the 4x800m national title in 7:42.19.

“It was
crazy!” said MacKay, the anchor, in his post-race webcast interview.
“We all came here, trained, raised money to get here, did everything to
get here. We wanted to come home with a win.”

“It was so fun to come back after getting second and win,” added Smith seconds later.

Amanda
Thomas anchored home Western Branch TC (VA) in the girls’ 4x800m relay,
securing the national title in 9:02.27. Jewel Smith, Ceshay Joyner, and
Faith Ross were also part of the victorious team, combining to record
the fastest prep time in the discipline this season.

Tomorrow,
in the final day of competition, national champions will be crowned in
the 800m, mile, and 2 mile, among many other events.

PHOTO:
Providence, R.I.’s La Salle Academy celebrate their sweep of the 4xMile
relay titles at New Balance Nationals Indoor 2015. From left to right,
lining up on the top row are Daniel Paiva, Matthew Bouthilette, David
Principe, and Jack Salisbury. On the bottom row, left to right, are
Audrey O’Neil, Eliza Rego, Karina Tavares, Sheridan Wilbur.

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